Photography by KATHY TRAN.
Every Christmas Day, David Romano and his family used to eat Chinese food in New York City.
The president of Local Favorite Restaurants group and a legacy restaurant creator, Romano found a special place in his heart for Chinese food and culture, which he experienced in Chinatown.
But there was one thing Romano felt was missing from those Chinese restaurants.
“They’re not that fun,” he says.
Following that thought stream, Wok Star Chinese was born. It combines Chinese cuisine with a fun atmosphere and American-style service.
Intense rock ’n’ roll-inspired pop art covers one wall of the restaurant, while Chinese artifacts sit on shelves and hang nearby.
From the dining room, guests can view chef Charlie hand pulling noodles. He learned how in China, studying for six months under another chef.
He often dances while he pulls the noodles. On Wok Star’s opening night, the chef was placed in the center of the dining room, dancing as he worked the dough.
“If you come and you don’t get the Charlie show, then you need to make sure that you come back the second time and get the Charlie show,” Romano says.
The music that plays at Wok Star comes from an ever-growing, 34-hour, private playlist on Spotify that’s run by Romano’s 13 year-old daughter, Mia. During a meal, guests can hear everything from Nirvana and Grandmaster Flash to Taylor Swift and Usher.
The menu is authentically Chinese, Romano says. There are four hand pulled noodle options. Chef Charlie’s favorite is the Dan Dan La Mian. Classic chicken, pork, beef and seafood options are sprinkled throughout the menu in the forms of fried rice, moo shu and sweet-and-sour. Bao buns and handmade dumplings are also stars of the menu.
“It would be a travesty if people came to Wok Star and didn’t order at least one version of dumplings,” says Romano.
The menu focuses on full-size entrees, but Romano is looking into incorporating dim sum cart service.
Wok Star has also figured out its cocktail menu, with musical references packing the drink lineup. The gin-based Radioactive comes with smoke bubbles. The I’m Too Sexy is made with Deep Eddy Lime and Sour Patch Kids. And the Like a Virgin Mocktail is made with strawberry, club soda and heavy cream.
Romano was hesitant at first to bring Wok Star to The Hill. The Preston Hollow resident was skeptical of its pull from neighborhoods on the other side of Central Expressway. But even before the restaurant opened, those fears were put to rest.
Hype surrounding Wok Star was built almost purely from shared Facebook posts among Lake Highlands residents, and when the restaurant opened for delivery only, there were nights when they had to stop taking orders because there were too many, Romano says. When the doors finally opened in July, the restaurant was flooded with guests.
“I underestimated the Lake Highlands community on how much they support a new restaurant,” he says.
Wok Star Chinese, wokstarchinese.com, 972.961.1168, 8041 Walnut Hill Lane